General faculty vote to allow departments to expand electorate

9:25:50 AM CDT - Thursday, May 25, 2006

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

After a lengthy discussion — much of it spent on the fact that the university has been hiring more and more lecturers to fill traditional faculty positions — the WSU faculty voted May 9 to give departments the right to allow faculty on phased retirement and individuals with full-time faculty status to vote on such issues as curriculum and faculty searches.

The issue of allowing others such as faculty on phased retirement, because of their status of having been longtime faculty members, and instructors, who are sharing more and more of the teaching loads at WSU, had dominated discussions at Faculty Senate meetings over the past three months.

For years, the WSU faculty handbook has defined the faculty electorate as full-time, 1.0 EFT (equivalent full-time) professors, associate professors, assistant professors and tenured instructors. That electorate was allowed to extend the voting rights to visiting professors only.

WSU’s policies and procedures manual, however, didn’t include the definition, plus a number of departments had been allowing others, including part-time lecturers, to vote in departmental matters. To ensure the definition was included in the manual, the senate started studying the issue.

After several discussions at its meetings, the senate sent the issue to its executive committee to draft a compromise of who could be “enfranchised” or be given the right to vote by the department’s electorate. One particular sticking point was whether to include .8 or even .5 lecturers among those who could be enfranchised. The committee, and later the senate, finally agreed to allow 1.0 EFTs only with faculty status who teach at least half time to be included. (A common practice among some departments is to drop 1.0 EFTs to .8 status, in order to keep them after the department has reached the six-year employment cap on a full-time lecturer.)

 “This was the strictest compromise I’ve seen in my 13 years on the Faculty Senate,” said outgoing senate president Christopher Brooks, who is a member of the executive committee.

Because substantive policy changes require the action of WSU’s faculty, the electorate definition had to be voted upon during a general faculty meeting.

The vote to include phased retirees passed easily among the 60 or so faculty in attendance at the May meeting, with more than 50 agreeing to include phased retirees after little discussion about that option. The discussion to include lecturers was more lengthy. About 45 faculty voted to include the instructors.

A number of longtime faculty, including John Dreifort and Dottie Billings, pointed out that WSU has been filling many faculty positions with lecturers instead of tenure-track faculty, which led to the lengthy discussion about that practice and its implications before the vote was taken.

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